I think Dali would have been proud of me last night.
I had received a call from my new friends over at We are the Oracle (underground unique party planners extraordaires) inviting me to a shindig they were throwing with “a bit of a twist”. It was going to be held at the same location as one of their previous parties I had attended in an abandoned bomb shelter, so I accepted the invitation in a heartbeat, forgetting about any mention of a twist…
But then there they were…
Ponies greeting us at the door.
Ponies riding ponies.
Ponies f**king everywhere.
I knew I was going to need a good drink for all this horsing around … (cheers to my Dad joke).
Why ponies, you ask? Well that’s an excellent question.
All I can tell you is that the evening’s sponsor (who thankfully provided everyone with an all-night open bar, free burgers and complimentary horse masks) … well let’s just say they seem to have a bit of a thing for ponies.
Oh, and I devoured my burger before I could take an obligatory food blogging shot of it, but it happened to be one of my favourite burger joints in Paris serving up some of their juicy buns– convincing me that I should probably hire them for my dirty thirty birthday coming up soon. Here they are in action.
Licking our fingers off, we wandered down the hall to poke our heads into the different rooms and wouldn’t you know, we found the Mad Hatter.
He was hosting a game of paintball using his fluffy toy unicorn as the target. Yup, just your typical Parisian party.
“Step right up” he hollered, as his lovely minotaur-esque unicorn assistant handed out candy floss …
Just your average photo caption: Eating candy floss while observing a game of paintball unicorn piñata with the Mad Hatter….
It was all perfectly insane.
So we left him to it in his mad little den…
Casually strolled past the chocolate shower turned mud-wrestling match…
And a few other inexplicable scenes, all just about crazy enough to make me forget that there was an abandoned bomb shelter below my feet waiting to be re-discovered…
I locate the entrance to the bunker and give it a good tug. Damn it! Locked.
Tonight the madness appears to be limited to above-ground.
Never easily deterred by a bomb-proof bolted door, I go find my hosts and bat the old eyelashes in the hopes that maybe, just maybe…
… they’ll give us the key to the catacombs!
Note: entire body weight needed to open door.
And we’re in.
But it’s very different from the last time I was here when the stairway was lit, bomb sirens were wailing and a lively underworld awaited us at the bottom. Tonight, you can hear a pin drop (30 meters down) and if your flashlight runs out….
You’re on your own with the darkness.
We begin our descent into the abyss of the Parisian underworld…
You definitely don’t want to drop your new iPhone down there!
We pass the hallways that served as last year’s dance floor, now damp and dripping. Holes in the ground are waiting to consume your feet. The place is virtually unrecognizeable from the lively scene I remember. Our guide tells us that the bunker has been suffering from water damage due to nearby construction and it’s unlikely any parties could be held here again.
It’s hard to imagine the street artist who remained down here in the darkness to finish his mural. The mood clearly influenced the work…
And there’s certainly that prickly little feeling that starts crawling up the back of your neck down here, (perfectly captured ↑ in my friend’s expression).
A lifeless old telecommunications machine sits in the middle of a dark room.
I momentarily imagine being locked down here with nothing but this sorry machine to try and call for help.
Next we find the old electric generator bikes, but there’s no DJ booth down here to power up tonight…
We stumble upon the old urinals, but we’re apparently not the first.
If you look towards the back of the room, the bathroom tiles seems to have been cut away in a peculiar circular manner…
These are the cutaway marks where underground urbex explorers, known as cataphyles once dug their way into the bunker using nothing more than a hole saw. The hole has now been filled up but you can see exactly where they would have made their entrance from the catacombs (albeit not the most glamorous of entrances to arrive in the urinals).
Just to give you an idea of how difficult it is to penetrate the thick granite walls of the bunker, this hole above would have taken at least a day to cut through.
Time seems to stop in the bunker and before we know it, we’ve lost an hour down in the darkness.
We emerge a little weary, eyes trying to adjust to the light. Time for a snap with our guides.
Sebastien, on the right, is a self-confessed cataphyle, who loves exploring the depths of Paris. During the day, he works for the party’s sponsor, who also happen to own the building and the bunker, where they’ll eventually install some very secure internet servers.
Business cards were swapped and I plan on seeing more of this guy for some underworld adventures.
Back outside and there they were again, waiting for us with their crazy eyes and terrifying teeth…
I’d almost forgot about those damn ponies.